Dave Frishberg

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Dave Frishberg
Frishberg in 2005
Frishberg in 2005
Background information
Born(1933-03-23)March 23, 1933
Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedNovember 17, 2021(2021-11-17) (aged 88)
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
GenresJazz, vocal jazz, swing
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instrument(s)Piano, vocals
LabelsArbors, Blue Note/EMI

David Lee Frishberg (March 23, 1933 – November 17, 2021) was an American jazz pianist, vocalist, composer, and lyricist. His songs have been performed by Blossom Dearie, Rosemary Clooney, Shirley Horn,[1] Anita O'Day, Michael Feinstein, Irene Kral, Diana Krall, Rebecca Kilgore, Stacey Kent, Bette Midler, John Pizzarelli, Jessica Molaskey, and Mel Tormé.

Frishberg wrote the music and lyrics for "I'm Just a Bill", the song about the forlorn legislative writ in the ABC Schoolhouse Rock! series, which was later transformed into the revue Schoolhouse Rock Live. For Schoolhouse Rock! he also wrote and performed "Walkin' on Wall Street", a song describing how the stock market works, and "$7.50 Once a Week", a song about saving money and balancing a budget.


David Lee Frishberg was born on March 23, 1933,[2] in Saint Paul, Minnesota.[3] Frishberg resisted learning classical piano as a boy, developing an interest in blues and boogie-woogie by listening to recordings by Pete Johnson and Jay McShann. As a teenager, he played in the house band at the Flame in St. Paul where Art Tatum, Billie Holiday, and Johnny Hodges appeared. After graduating from the University of Minnesota as a journalism major in 1955, Frishberg spent two years in the Air Force.[4]

In 1957, Frishberg moved to New York City,[5] where he played solo piano at the Duplex in Greenwich Village. He first became known for his work with Carmen McRae, Ben Webster, Gene Krupa, Bud Freeman, Eddie Condon, Al Cohn, and Zoot Sims. Later, he was celebrated for writing and performing his own, frequently humorous, songs, including favorites "I'm Hip" (lyrics only, in collaboration with Bob Dorough),[6] "Blizzard of Lies",[7] "My Attorney Bernie" (his most famous—a hit for Chicago's first lady of Jazz, Judy Roberts),[8] "Do You Miss New York", "Peel Me a Grape", "Quality Time", "Slappin' the Cakes on Me", "I Want To Be A Sideman", and "Van Lingle Mungo", whose lyrics consist entirely of the names of old-time baseball players.[9]

In 1971, Frishberg moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a studio musician, and where he also recorded his first albums. In 1986, he moved to Portland, Oregon.[10]

Frishberg cited songwriter Frank Loesser as an influence,[11] and has said that Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside", along with Willie Nelson's "Crazy", are songs he wished he had written. Like Loesser before him, Frishberg has also worked strictly as a lyricist, collaborating with composers Johnny Mandel, Alan Broadbent, Al Cohn, Blossom Dearie, David Shire, Julius Wechter, Dan Barrett, Bob Brookmeyer, Bob Dorough, Gerry Mulligan, and Johnny Hodges.[6]

Frishberg was nominated 4 times for Grammy awards for Best Jazz Vocals. Rolling Stone India included two of his recordings for their series of jazz playlists in the category of "lyrics worth paying attention to": "My Attorney Bernie" (sung by Blossom Dearie) and "I Want To Be a Sideman" (performed by Frishberg).[12] He was the co-recipient of the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song in 1981, having written the lyric to "Baby Talk" from the Burt Reynolds comedy film Paternity.


Frishberg was a longtime baseball fan, and had been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) since 1984.[13] In addition to "Van Lingle Mungo", he also wrote "Matty", a tribute to an early 20th century pitching great, which was included along with "Play Ball" and several other songs with baseball references, on the 1994 CD Quality Time.[14]

Frishberg died on November 17, 2021, in Portland, Oregon, at the age of 88.[3][15]


  • Oklahoma Toad (CTI, 1970)
  • Solo And Trio (Seeds, 1974)
  • Getting Some Fun Out of Life (Concord Jazz, 1977)
  • You're a Lucky Guy (Concord Jazz, 1978)
  • The Dave Frishberg Songbook Volume No. 1 (Omni Sound, 1981)
  • The Dave Frishberg Songbook Volume No. 2 (Omni Sound, 1983)
  • Live at Vine Street (Fantasy, 1985)
  • Can't Take You Nowhere (Fantasy, 1987)
  • Let's Eat Home (Concord Jazz, 1990)
  • Dave Frishberg Classics (Concord Jazz, 1981)
  • Where You At? (Sterling, 1991)
  • Double Play with Jim Goodwin (Arbors, 1993)
  • Quality Time (Sterling, 1994)
  • Looking at You with Rebecca Kilgore (PHD Music, 1994)
  • Not a Care in the World with Rebecca Kilgore (Arbors, 1997)
  • By Himself (Arbors, 1998)
  • Knäck Mig En Nöt with Vänner (Gazell, 1998)
  • Who's On First? with Bob Dorough (Blue Note, 2000)
  • The Starlit Hour with Rebecca Kilgore (Arbors, 2001)
  • Do You Miss New York? Live at Jazz at Lincoln Center (Arbors, 2003)
  • Dave Frishberg at The Jazz Bakery: Retromania (Arbors, 2005)
  • Why Fight the Feeling with Rebecca Kilgore (Arbors, 2008)
  • House Concert with Karen Krog (Arbors, 2010)
  • Jessica Molasky and Dave Frishberg at the Algonquin (Arbors, 2012)

As sideman[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Balliett, Whitney (1988). American Singers: 27 Portraits in Song. New York, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504610-2.
  • Frishberg, Dave (2017). My Dear Departed Past. Milwaukee, Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1495071300


  1. ^ Steve Futterman (August 22, 2001). "The Inimitable Dave Frishberg". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 152/3. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  3. ^ a b Singer, Barry (November 17, 2021). "Dave Frishberg, Writer of Songs Sardonic and Nostalgic, Dies at 88". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  4. ^ Don Berryman (November 27, 2005). "Dave Frishberg at the Jazz Bakery Nov 29 – Dec 4th". Jazz Police. Archived from the original on January 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Andrea Canter (March 13, 2006). "Getting Some Fun Out of Life and Music: Back in St. Paul With David Frishberg". Jazz Police. Archived from the original on October 30, 2006.
  6. ^ a b "Dave Frishberg Song Catalogue". DaveFrishberg.net.
  7. ^ Mike Joyce (July 24, 1989). "Dave Frishberg". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ Stephen Holden (October 19, 2006). "Her Voice, His Tender, Cruel Songs". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Dave Frishberg's Personal, Peculiar Compositions Songs of Himself". San Jose Mercury News. July 1, 1994.
  10. ^ "Dave Frishberg: Long Bio". Davefrishberg.net. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  11. ^ Ketzel Levine (April 19, 2004). "Intersections: Reviving the Art of the Witty Lyric; Dave Frishberg's Deft, Wry Wording Recalls an Earlier Era". NPR.
  12. ^ Sunil Sampat (March 22, 2019). "Rolling Stone India's Jazz Playlist".
  13. ^ SABR Digital Library: Van Lingle Mungo: The Man, The Song, The Players, accessed December 19, 2014
  14. ^ AllMusic review, by Scott Yanow, accessed December 19, 2014
  15. ^ Tapp, Tom (November 19, 2021). "Dave Frishberg Dies: Jazz Musician, Writer Of 'Schoolhouse Rock' Tune 'I'm Just A Bill' Was 88". Deadline. Retrieved November 19, 2021.

External links[edit]